Working towards sustainability in Kamloops

While world leaders meet in Paris, there are plans, projects and rallies here at home, too

A wood biomass boiler at the Integrated Biomass Resources facility in Oregon. (Flickr - Oregon Department of Forestry)

A wood biomass boiler at the Integrated Biomass Resources facility in Oregon. (Flickr – Oregon Department of Forestry)

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference will begin in Paris on Nov. 30. The nations of the world will negotiate a universal agreement on climate change and what should be done about it.

Yet while world leaders discuss what should be done, both TRU and the City of Kamloops are actively taking steps to improve sustainability and reduce emissions throughout the region.

One of TRU’s main priorities when it comes to improving the sustainability of the institution is reducing greenhouse gases. The university has had a plan in place to do so since 2009.

TRU’s director of Environment and Sustainability Jim Gudjonson has said that since the plan’s enactment, the university has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent, despite growing by 15 per cent.

The sustainability office is still actively looking for ways to improve, though Gudjonson said there is no “silver bullet” solution for climate change.

“Everybody has their own regional assets in terms of what they can do and what energy they can use,” Gudjonson said. “For us, our electricity is relatively clean here. It makes more sense for us to focus on our heating plans, because we use gas to do that, and 93 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions are from our heating loads.”

Focusing on the university’s heating plan, Environment and Sustainability has already begun the process of installing the Williams Lake campus’ wood biomass boiler. It is set to be commissioned in March, and is expected to reduce the Williams Lake campus’ emissions by 90 per cent; 10 per cent of TRU’s total.

There is also the possibility for a similar system on the Kamloops campus. A mini district energy system could have wood biomass boilers in key locations around campus. These key locations will most likely be in the campus’ largest buildings and any new structures that are built. Smaller structures will be linked into the system as well so they can feed off of the same grid.

Meanwhile, the City of Kamloops has a new solar field on the table. The West Highland Community Centre is being redeveloped to house 96 solar panels on its rooftop. These panels will produce 27,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, enough to power two homes. Glen Cheetham, the city’s energy management coordinator, hopes this will be enough energy to power both the community centre and the surrounding park.

“Realizing these energy savings will be great, but this project is also meant to engage the community on energy issues,” Cheetham said. “We need to get people thinking. Just because we live in B.C. doesn’t mean we have dams in our backyards.”

The city is also looking at how to make water distribution more efficient; 37 per cent of the city’s energy use stems from water distribution and treatment. Engineering firms have been hired to look at new technology and control strategies that could be implemented, but Cheetham said it is still a work in progress.

However, one energy solution currently being considered is the trapping and flaring of methane gases coming from the Sewage Treatment Centre.

“In the future, we will also be looking at ways in which we can use the methane from the treatment centre to produce electricity,” Cheetham said.

For keeping individual emissions down, both Cheetham and Gudjonson stressed the importance of not letting your vehicle idle too long, especially with winter approaching.

“All of us need to really think hard about the way we get ourselves around. If there are opportunities to improve sustainability, take them,” Gudjonson said. “Try to start slow, even walking or taking the bus once a week helps.”